It doesn't take much to make a great dish out of Thanksgiving leftovers. The turkey-stuffing-cranberry sauce sandwich is a classic. So is the cold drumstick. But this year, Newsday turned to three local chefs for inspiration in our second Thanksgiving Leftover Challenge.
The ground rules: We showed up at each of these restaurants with a "mystery basket" of three leftovers. As on "Chopped" and "Iron Chef," staples and seasonings from the chef's kitchen were OK to use, but the main focus of the dish had to be the ingredients we supplied.
Each of these dishes was easy, flexible and delicious, winners all.
THE CHEF: CHUCK TREADWELL, MARKET BISTRO IN JERICHO
The mystery ingredients Cooked turkey, pan-roasted Brussels sprouts, mixed nuts
The strategy Add pasta
"Pasta is the way to go with leftovers," said Chuck Treadwell, executive chef of the New American restaurant in Jericho. "You've often got family in town. What better to make than a big bowl of pasta." Treadwell augmented the turkey and sprouts here with pancetta and dates, but you could certainly make this dish without these embellishments. And virtually any cooked vegetable -- string beans, cauliflower, roasted squash or sweet potatoes, even spinach -- could be substituted for the sprouts. Use any (or no) nuts in place of the mixed nuts, and any shape pasta you have on hand.
THE DISH: THANKSGIVING PASTA
1/4 cup chopped pancetta
1/2 to 1 cup mixed nuts (or any type of nuts)
1 cup grated pecorino (or Parmesan)
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (any combination of parsley, thyme or rosemary)
1 pound pasta
2 to 3 cups turkey, roughly chopped
1 to 2 cups cooked Brussels sprouts
1/2 cup chopped dates (optional)
1/2 to 1 cup turkey or chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1. Place pancetta in a large skillet and over low heat, cook until most of the fat has rendered out. Pour off excess fat.
2. Chop nuts roughly and toast in a 350-degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes until fragrant. Combine nuts with 1/4 cup cheese and the fresh herbs. Set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta until just short of done. Meanwhile, add turkey, Brussels sprouts and dates to skillet and pour in 1/2 cup broth. Over low, stirring frequently, heat all ingredients through, adding more broth if necessary. Taste for salt and pepper.
4. When pasta is just short of done, strain it out and add to skillet, reserving some of the pasta-cooking water. Turn heat to high and stir pasta with turkey-sprouts mixture, adding reserved pasta-cooking water if mixture is dry, until pasta is cooked and just a little liquid remains in bottom of pan. Off heat, add butter, remainder of cheese and a squeeze or 2 of fresh lemon juice.
5. Spoon pasta into bowls. Top each with nut-cheese-herb mixture. Makes 4 servings.
THE CHEF: STEVE CARDELLO, RELISH IN KINGS PARK
The mystery ingredients Cooked turkey, roasted root vegetables (carrots, parsnips and sweet potatoes), cranberry sauce
The strategy Make a hash
"We do a lot of hashes here at Relish," said Steve Cardello, chef-owner of Kings Park's nouveau-retro diner. "Prime rib, smoked salmon -- it's all good, and all better with an egg on top." Cardello, who trained at Manhattan's French Culinary Institute, has a Gallic love of leeks. "They have an earthiness and vegetal quality that you don't get from onions," he said, but you could certainly make this dish with just onions. To accompany the hash, Cardello liberally spread whole-wheat toast with cranberry butter, but he also liked the idea of using the intense pink compound butter on a turkey sandwich or even on top of a piece of grilled pork.
THE DISH: THANKSGIVING HASH WITH CRANBERRY-BUTTER TOAST
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature, plus more for cooking eggs
1/2 cup cranberry sauce
2 slices bacon (or 1 thick-cut slice), cut into thin strips
1/2 cup diced leek
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup diced onion
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1 to 1 1/2 cups roasted vegetables (such as potato, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes), cut into small, even chunks
1 to 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped turkey meat
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground ancho chili or smoked paprika
4 slices whole-grain bread
Turkey skin crackling (see recipe), finely sliced
1. With a wooden spoon or in a mixer, beat stick of softened butter and cranberry sauce until smooth.
2. In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until fat renders and it just begins to crisp. Add leeks, a good pinch of salt and grinding of pepper. Cook until leeks soften, then add onion. When onion softens and turns translucent, add red pepper. When red pepper softens, add roasted vegetables, chopped turkey and ancho chili. Cook, stirring frequently, until all ingredients are hot. Cover pan.
3. Place butter in a nonstick pan and cook eggs sunnyside up or over easy.
4. Toast bread, spread each slice with cranberry butter, cut in half diagonally.
5. Spoon hash into 4 bowls, top each one with turkey skin crackling and an egg and serve with slices of toast. Makes 4 servings.
TURKEY SKIN CRACKLING
Place turkey skin on a sheet pan, cook at 350 degrees until skin is crisp, about 30 minutes. Cool and break into shards.
THE CHEF: TONI CLIFTON, PRETTY TONI'S CAFÉ IN VALLEY STREAM
The mystery ingredients Cooked turkey, mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese
The strategy Create croquettes
When Toni Clifton, chef-owner of Pretty Toni's Café, a little jewel of a soul food restaurant in Valley Stream, saw cooked turkey and mashed potatoes, her mind instantly went to croquettes. "My mom used to make leftover croquettes," she said. "And I figured if I made them into patties and put them on buns, I could just melt the cheese right on top of them." Clifton left the skin on the turkey and kept it in pretty big chunks "so you can see you're eating turkey." She also noted that you could substitute stuffing for the mashed potatoes, in which case she'd lose the bread crumbs and, if necessary, add another egg. Leftover gravy is perfect for this sandwich, but in its absence, you could use a spicy mayonnaise or Dijon mustard.
THE DISH: THANKSGIVING ON A ROLL
2 cups chopped turkey breast
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon finely minced fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 cup mashed potatoes
Salt and pepper
Oil for filming pan
Cheddar cheese, sliced
Sprigs of rosemary, for garnish
4 toasted burger buns
Turkey gravy (optional)
1. Combine turkey breast, onion, celery, rosemary and bread crumbs until well integrated. Mix in egg and mashed potatoes and mix well. Add milk, if necessary, to moisten mixture enough so you can form patties. Taste for salt and/or pepper.
2. Film a wide skillet with oil and place over medium heat. Form turkey mixture into 4 (1-inch-thick) patties and place in hot pan. Cook until well browned on one side, then flip over and brown the other side. When second side is almost done, place a slice of cheese on each patty and, if desired, place a sprig of rosemary on the cheese to flavor it. (Remove it before eating.) To help the cheese melt, cover the pan for a minute or so.
3. Place each croquette on a bun and top with gravy. Makes 4 servings.